The Motherless Mothers Day

Today has been exactly one month to the day since my mother passed away. Yesterday I went to see a grief counselor, to help in this healing process. She told me that all of the “firsts” are going to be the hardest. The first Mothers Day, first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, etc. Unfortunately for me my first motherless Mothers Day is so soon, this Sunday to be exact.

My mom is not here, so I can’t spend the day with her or lavish her with gifts. The only thing I can do is celebrate her, and pour myself into my own children. One thing I want to do for her this Mothers Day though is tell you about her. I want my readers to know about the woman who made me into what I am, because if you ever see a good quality in me, you can be sure it came from her.

I could tell you that my mothers favorite color was purple, or that her favorite flowers were lilies. I could tell you that she was a petite woman with dark blonde hair, and greenish- hazel colored eyes. I could tell you that she wore Hanae Mori perfume from the “Butterfly” collection, which is ironic because she hated butterflies. I could tell you that she tanned well in the summer, and how much she loved bathing in the sun. I could tell you that she loved to read, and her favorite kind of stories were mysteries and science fiction. I could tell you all of these things but they wouldn’t matter to you if you never knew her. So I want you to know her, at least how I knew her.

My mom was the oldest of her 3 sisters, born an identical twin though sadly her twin sister, Rhonda, passed away shortly after birth. Her parents were divorced, though both of her parents remained very involved with their girls. She grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, where she would later raise my brother and myself as well. She was beautiful and outgoing. Somewhat rebellious, but never reckless. She loved aqua-net hairspray, and was a perfectionist with a bottle of nail polish. She liked to chat over a cup of coffee on the front porch in the fall. She loved to think about the conspiracies of the world, like “is Big Foot real,” and “what is really hiding at Area 51?” She loved to sing even though she wasn’t very good at it. She was goofy in a good way. For example, she liked to pretend she had a British or an Irish accent and get to talking about anything and everything just to make people laugh. She enjoyed making fairy gardens, and painting rocks with her grand kids. We had our own secret language that few could understand, and we would speak it to each other when a message needed to be relayed for our ears only. She was feisty with a kind spirit, and had an amazing capability to care for others. Her grand children meant everything to her, and there’s no argument that she was absolutely the best mother she could be.

She had me when she was young. She was 16 when she became pregnant with me, and 17 when she gave birth to me. The first selfless thing she ever did for me was make the choice to keep me. A scared teenage mother chose to give up her own dreams and devote herself to a baby who didn’t ask to be born. Some people might think that a teenage mom couldn’t be a great mother, but boy would she prove those people wrong. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother if I was able to hand pick her myself. Since she was young when she had me, we got to grow up together. To give you a visual, think “Gilmore Girls” but blonde. In a lot of ways my mom and I also had a sister-like relationship, and she was my best friend all of my life. I am glad she didn’t wait, even though I’m sure that it put a lot of hardship on her to be such a young mother. Knowing now her fate to die early in life, being a young mom gave us more time together.

My mom was the kind of mom that would give you the last of her ice cream just because you asked for it, even if you already scarfed down your own, and even though it was chocolate with peanut butter cups which was her favorite. She was the mom who picked you up for lunch every day in second grade to make your favorite lunch and help you with your school work, because your ADD was holding you back in school but she wanted to help you catch up instead of medicate you. She was the mom that wouldn’t allow you watch scary movies, but still let you sleep in her bed late at night when you got scared because you sneakily watched them anyways at a friends house.

She was the kind of mom that woke you up early every morning in junior high school to do your hair and makeup for you, because your coming of age self didn’t know how to apply eyeliner to save your life. She was the kind of mom that helped you late night cram the project for school that you procrastinated for weeks. She was the kind of mom that stayed up all hours curled up on the sofa consoling you through your first heart break. She was also the kind of mom that helped you plot revenge against the first boy who broke your heart. She was the kind of mom who forgave you for being a rotten teenager, and loved you through all your mistakes.

She was the kind of mom who helped you move across the country when you became married at 18, even though it broke her heart. She was the kind of mom who put you on her cell phone plan because the two of you talked so often that the bill was outrageous (this was back before everything was unlimited). She was the kind of mom that couldn’t stand the distance between the two of you so she also moved across the country just to be near you and your children. She was the kind of mom that gave you good advice when you had marriage quarrels instead of just getting mad with you.

She was the kind of mom that even when she got sick she watched your kids for you until she couldn’t anymore. She was the kind of mom that you stayed every night you could at the hospital when she wasn’t doing well, because you know she would do the same for you. She was the kind of mom that you prayed fervently for that God would give her just one more day. She was the kind of mom that even in her suffering she would comfort you and tell you that everything is going to be okay. She was the kind of mom who used her last breath to tell you that she loves you always. She was the kind of mom that leaves an imprint in your heart forever, even after she is gone. She was the kind of mom that you want to be for your children, and that’s how she will live on.

This Mothers Day my mom isn’t with me. However she does get to be in heaven with her mom, and I’m sure you can probably guess that her mom was just as great as her. So, happy Mothers Day in heaven this year mamma! Give Grandma a hug for me. If your mom is still here this mothers day please give her your love. Spend the day with her if you can. Send her (or bring her) flowers. Tell her you love her. Don’t take her for granted.

Advertisements

The Day The World Didn’t Stop… But It Should Have.

My mother was very sick for a long time. She already beat cancer once, but in January of 2017 (just at the mark of what would have been her five year remission) it came back. She had cervical cancer caused by the HPV virus, however this time it came back in her lymph nodes. I remember standing there in a state of numbness while the doctor’s voice sounded like something from an episode of the Peanuts cartoon (Charlie Brown), “wa wa wa” as she told my mother that she had 6-18 months to live.

She put up a good fight but around 13 months after her re-diagnosis she became sick with an infection. Her immune system couldn’t handle much more and she ended up being admitted to the hospital. Eventually she went into respiratory failure and became intubated. She spent the last 3 months of her life in the hospital, and the last 3 weeks of that on a ventilator. They knew that she was going to be on the ventilator long term, so after a couple days they trached her. There is much more about her condition that contributed to that, but that is for another time. However due to the tracheotomy she was moved to a specialty hospital that was an hour away from our home town.

Between my brother, dad, grandfather, and myself we did our best to make sure that she was never alone. She was awake and very much aware. Often times she was capable of making her own decisions and could communicate with a dry erase board that I bought her. We got to spend a lot of quality time together, and I was really good a reading her lips. She was impressed with how well I could read her lips, because we were able to have full fluid conversations without the dry erase board for the most part. Little did she realize that I was able to read her lips long before she was in that condition. She was, and still is, my greatest idol, of course I could read her lips, I have been watching her in admiration before I could talk. Anyways, we never wanted her to be alone because her anxiety was very bad. One night when I stayed with her she asked me to make up my hospital chair bed right next to her bedside so that we could hold hands while we slept. I did, and I will always cherish that.

We were fortunate to get the chance to celebrate one last Easter together, and my 29th birthday too. On Easter my husband and I brought the kids up to see her, the whole family was there. We had taken the kids shopping the day before and made her an Easter basket full of goodies. The kids got to dye Easter eggs with her, fake ones that we can hold dear forever. For my birthday we got a cake (per her request) and we all met her up at the hospital to celebrate together. She was able to eat things of a certain consistency, so she enjoyed some jello while we had cake. We shared the left over cake with the hospital staff. My mom was so happy for this. There’s nothing she loved more than spending time with her family, especially getting to see her grand-kids.

Late one night after my husband and I had a wonderful visit with mom that day, I was at home sleeping when I got a phone call. It was 2 in the morning, and I knew that only meant bad news. My brother had stayed that night with my mom, but it was my dad that called me. He told me that my brother had called him and said we’d better get up there, that mom was passing away. My heart sank and I quickly jumped in my car. I must have cut that hour drive down to 40 minutes at least. When I got there she was still awake, but she was fading fast. I grabbed onto her hand and said, “mamma I’m here. I love you!” I read her lips and she said, “love you”. At a loss for words I said it again, “I love you”, and again she said, “love you”. Then she mouthed a word that even I had a hard time making out, but upon reflection I believe she said, “always”, and that was the last thing my beautiful mother ever said.

Shortly after I got there they gave her some medication to keep her comfortable, without pain, and help her to not be anxious. After that she became very relaxed. I held one of her hands and my brother held onto the other. We talked to her, and to each other. At one point she squeezed both of our hands very tightly, as if to tell us she was still there. I know she meant it as a hug goodbye.

My grandfather showed up and said a prayer over her. He couldn’t stand to stay and watch his little girl die, so my brother offered to walk him to his car. My dad took over holding her hand, the one that my brother was holding. As we both held her hands, we were talking about how we were partially glad for her that her suffering was coming to an end. With that my mom took one last breath and let it out, almost like a sigh of relief, and she was gone. At 5 o’clock in the morning on April 11th 2018, right in the palm of my hand my mommy left this world, and went home to be with Jesus. It’s amazing when you watch someone die, you realize how our bodies are really just shells for our souls. When she let out that breath her skin felt different almost immediately, her color changed, and I knew that she had left her body. What laid before me was a beautiful empty shell where my mother used to reside. I don’t care what anyone believes, but you cannot experience something like that without coming to the conclusion that there is definitely something- somewhere beyond us. I call it Heaven, but whatever you want to call it, its real.

As soon as she took her last breath my brother came back in. I was sad for him that he missed it, but if I know my mom (and I do) I really believe that she waited for him to step out so she could go. He was her baby, and she didn’t want him to see that. He rushed to her side and reclaimed the hand my dad kept warm for him. Eventually the nurses came in and offered to “make her look more comfortable” if we would step out for a moment. I just remember my brother not wanting to let go of her hand, because he said he didn’t want it to get cold. That shattered my already broken heart.

When my brother was ready we left the room, and went to sit in his car to wait. While we sat in the car in the silence of disbelief, the sun began to rise. The sun coming out felt like a slap in the face, like someone rubbing salt in the wound. That’s when it hit me… My whole world just stopped, yet the world around me was going to go on like nothing happened. How? How is it possible to keep going on like that? How can I rise up like the sun for a new day? How?

Charlene Dawne Stewart, she made it 15 months after her diagnosis. She was only 46 years young. November 18, 1971 – April 11, 2018.

This is my journey to finding out “how” to be me without her.